The Alternative Dutch FlyerBack to Forum
Anonymous3 Dec 2015
For the first time in 20 years or so i took the alternative way to Amsterdam this week.
i left London Liverpool Street at 7.32pm for the direct train to Harwich International. With no check in you can get to the station just a few minutes before travel. Arrival into Harwich was just 75 minutes later with direct access to the ferry terminal alongside the platform. After a quick bags on conveyer belt security check and a document check with the Police a short wait to check in. Boarding cards, cabin keys and meal vouchers if booked were handed out and another short wait before joining a bus transfer to the vessel. The whole process from arriving at the train station took no more than 20-25 minutes.
I had booked a single outside cabin compulsory on night sailings and the extra cost of £39. i found out they had upgraded me to a Family 5 berth cabin which had a double bed and a single bed on the lower level and two upper bunk beds which I folded away. The cabin had a flat screen tv with a range of UK & Continental tv channels, radio stations and even a bridge camera channel. The caibin also had a well appointed bathroom with ample towels.
After settling in, I went down to the Metropolitan Restaurant for dinner. Although not needing it on this mid week December night crossing a reservation had automatically been made at the restaurant.
There were plenty of choices for all 3 courses with quality better than you would get on long haul first class flights. A pre dinner G&T, bottle of wine and port (that went with an excellent cheese platter) came to an additional €32.
I then retired to the cabin falling asleep immediately. I don’t know if it was a rough crossing but I didn’t feel any movement.
I was already in the shower which was hot and powerful when the unconventional almost like Good Morning Vietnam wake up call was played throughout the ship 90 minutes before arriving in the Hoek of Holland. Further announcements were made in the next hour or so.
I went down for the buffet breakfast which had many options, akin to a good quality hotel, plenty of types of juices, meats, cheeses, cooked items, cereal etc.
We were pulling alongside 15 minutes early and disembarkation was at the STA of 8am CET on the dot. A fairly lengthy walk along the gangway to immigration controls which had no line and straight out to the adjoining train station in plenty of time for the 8.25am train to Rotterdam.
For Amsterdam bound passengers the timetables suggest changing at Schiedam Central but I opted to change in Rotterdam where there were more frequent trains and got one just after 9am when most of the rush hour was over and easily obtained a seat pulling into Amsterdam Central Station just after 10am.
Ironically the train had also called at Schipol and a passenger joined with BA tagged luggage to Amsterdam for the 0650 departure which would have had them at Bag Drop no later than 0605.
The cost of my journey was £133 one way (£61 ferry fare, £39 cabin, £28 dinner and breakfast) and a £5 credit card booking fee.
You don;t have to book meals but save around €10 by prepurchasing both dinner and breakfast or €2-3 per meal by pre purchasing dinner or breakfast separately.
Cabins range from £30-£101 supplement the latter for the Captains Class Suite which includes a mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities and a separate lounge area.
My journey was actaully leisure but this reminded me of a very civilised and very reasonable alternative for flying. especially if you have a mid-late morning meeting in the Ranstad area of the Netherlands.3 Dec 2015
How civilised! And your trip was much better than that poor person who had to be at LHR presenting bags at 6am.
Combine this with a flight home in the evening and you have a great way to do a productive day’s business in the Randstad, Thanks for sharing!4 Dec 2015
Yes it covered the raill journey from London Liverpool Street to Harwich International and it includes a ticket to any station in the Dutch network… although when checking in at Harwich for the Ferry we were given a Daagkart which is unlimited travel for the day on the Dutch Railway Network so you could have gone all over Holland for the day if you wanted to.
These rail tickets were also available for purchase from the Reception on the ship for €17.004 Dec 2015
Thanks for posting, KeaneJohn.
As I’ve mentioned before, the two ferries used on the route are vastly improved but, over the years, the train links have been downgraded.
Previously there were named express trains on the UK side (I believe at one time they even boasted dining facilities) and in Holland there was a dedicated trains running between the ferry terminal and Amsterdam and vice versa.4 Dec 2015
PS. While Eurostar is undoubtedly quicker, recent events have made it sometimes very unreliable, which is another factor that would push me towards the ferry.
I was surprised though when you mentioned a security check KeeneJohn. In the article it says “no hassle with security” so perhaps this has been recently introduced as a result of heightened tensions?4 Dec 2015
Openfly as LuganoPirate has pointed out you can book tickets on the Stena Line website directly.
Ironically, despite it being an Abello Greater Anglian/Stena Line/NS Railways package (With Abello having links to NS), you can only book the day crossing without meals or cabins at Liverpool Street Station.
If you book by phone and/or can’t print the eticket off that you use to travel on the train the very helpful staff at the Travel Centre in Liverpool Street will issue you a Permit to Travel on the train. Thanks to Lugano Pirate for the links to Seat 61.
As AMcwirter has pointed out there are no dedicated rail links any longer. The 1932 from Liverpool Street is a popular commuter service and was quite full on departure but arriving at Liverpool Street 10 mins before meant I got on as soon as the train was in the platform and got a seat as did everybody.
In Holland, the train was an ordinary NS Service which started at the Hoek Van Holland Harbour so was empty on the platform. It did fill to standing room only on the route to Rotterdam hence my advice to change trains for Amsterdam Rotterdam just after 9am as opposed to Schiedam as there are trains every few minutes and like me by waiting a few minutes boarded an empty train and again got a seat.
The security checks were just luggage xrayed no laptops or liquids out and a few questions from the local police. I was asked why I was travelling, why I was flying back, how long I was going to be away for what was I going to be doing whilst away, and asked about 2 stamps in my passports (UAE and Morrocco.). So a few more questions that I would have potentially expected but didn’t take more than a couple of minutes and some people the officer just looked at passports.
On the subject of flying back, I did that today.
Stayed at an “airport” hotel last night and took their shuttle to Schipol this morning at 8am for the 10.25am flight to Heathrow. Check in had no lines but staff were getting used to new systems and had to reboot between printing baggage tag off and boarding card for me.
Fast Track security was exactly that, fast though this is where the efficiency stopped. There was no onward fast track immigration and the to the bemusement of most business class and priority passengers they had to snake back to join the main queue coming from regular security. There was little queue management and it took about 20 minutes to be processed. Schipol Airport is undergoing major redevelopments and it was a fair hike to the BA Lounge and I arrived about 9am.
40 mins in the lounge, enough time to grab a coffee, and some orange juice before another lengthy walk to the D gates.. Boarding was already in process with the fast track line virtually empty with gate staff regularly checking for people with excess hand luggage.
Promptly onboard and took assigned seat, 12A a bulkhead at the front of the 767 in Euro Traveller. Hand luggage stowed and boarding completed within 10 mins we pushed back for a lengthy taxi to the far runway. After 48 minutes in the air a couple of G&Ts and a couple of circuits over Essex we landed at T5 just after 10.50am and made our way to the B gates as the Captain advised that we would.
Disembarking from 2L whilst I was not held back as a courtesy to Club Europe I waited until they had disembarked. A member of the Cabin Crew was holding back the other aisle. The crew member on the door thanked me for waiting.
A transit to arrivals came in under a minute and there was no wait for the Egates although for some reason it didn’t accept my passport so a staff member asked me to go to a Border Force Kiosk. The guy was just logging in and apologised for keeping me waiting and I was through in a few minutes. The Heathrow Airport APP was advising me that the luggage was arriving on carousel 8 and as I went towards the belt I saw my case just going back behind the scenes so I walked round to the exit and grabbed it exiting the Customs Hall shortly before 11.20, one of the fastest Heathrow Arrival experiences that I have ever encountered.
So to summarise, a near perfect flight back and a great crew reminding me of BA at its best.
I would not have the need to go to Amsterdam for the day but if I did I would consider the Rail & Sail option to travel there overnight and catch a later flight home.
I would however consider the Dutch Flyer for a couple of days in Amsterdam being able to comfortably get to Liverpool Street after work and wake up in Amsterdam the following morning would save a mad rush to get to the airport, arriving late and a night in a hotel but I would probably fly home again.4 Dec 2015
Harwich/Hoek is a route I often take with and without the car. Your impressions sum up my own to a T. If you can do it overnight so the time travelling doesn’t impact on your business then I always choose that way to go.6 Dec 2015
I’ve been putting it off for ages, but I have to collect about 20 cases of wine from the Wine Society and a load of personal stuff now stored with a feed up sister. I’d been putting it off as I didn’t fancy Dover Calais in a van but the Hoek makes perfect sense. No excuse now!6 Dec 2015
Good luck LP. Go on a day sailing, get the Captain’s suite, take one of those bottles with you and relax looking out over the bow. Takes years off you – as long as there’s no rush.7 Dec 2015